Microsoft Press Enters Strategic Alliance with O'Reilly

Today, Microsoft and O’Reilly Media announced an agreement to support and expand Microsoft Press. Under the terms of the strategic alliance, O’Reilly will be the exclusive distributor of Microsoft Press titles and co-publisher of all Microsoft Press titles, on Nov. 30, 2009. We’ll be working with Microsoft to develop new books, as well as distributing both existing and new co-published books to bookstores, and, perhaps most importantly, to the emerging digital book channels that represent the future of book publishing.

Microsoft could have chosen to partner with any of the major computer book publishers. That they chose to work with us is a testament to three advantages we bring to the business:

  1. O’Reilly is more than a book publisher. We are an advocate, a connector, and a community builder. We help developers and users make the most of technology, with a focus on what they need to know. Microsoft has a history of building great developer communities, but in today’s world, those communities need to be connected with other communities outside Microsoft. Especially in technology, “the world is flat.”
  2. O’Reilly plays a unique role in the technology ecosystem: from our earliest days, we provided the documentation for important technologies for which there was no “vendor.” The internet, the World Wide Web, Linux and other open source software, and Web 2.0 all were documented and given mainstream awareness by O’Reilly books and events. We identify and evangelize the disruptive technologies that reinvigorate the industry.
  3. O’Reilly has been a pioneer in the new world of ebooks. In the early 1990s, we co-developed docbook, one of the first standardized formats for ebooks, and the progenitor of future XML-based ebook formats. In 2001, in partnership with the Pearson Technology Group, we launched Safari Books Online, the largest and most comprehensive electronic subscription library of computer books and videos. We’ve built a successful direct business with DRM-free downloads of ebook bundles that work on any device. We’re an early leader in publishing books for the iPhone and other portable reading devices, and understanding how to use ebook channels to reach new customers. And of course, our Tools of Change for Publishing Conference (TOC) has become the place to share knowledge about the changes sweeping through publishing.

On this last point, I’m particularly excited that as part of this agreement, Microsoft has committed to make its ebooks DRM-free and device-independent. One of our goals at O’Reilly has been to make sure that ebook customers can read them on any device, and have the ability to keep using them even if they change their preferred device. Having Microsoft Press join us in this commitment is a big step forward towards an open ebook market.

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  • D:

    No. Way.

    You are dead to me.

  • So in the near future I can access Microsoft Press books via Safari. Is that books going forward or will you have access to the entire library?

  • mpg

    A quick glance at my shelf shows a lot of MS Press and O’Reilly titles — more than any other publisher, by quite a margin. And not just because of their large market-shares: the quality of MS Press and O’Reilly texts is much higher than that of most of their competitors.

    For that reason only, this news could almost make me sad: competition generally serves to keep players on their toes, and two of the biggies in the field are now one.

    That said, so many years of good books have built up a lot of faith and goodwill for the O’Reilly team. Congrats to Tim & Co!


  • Is this deal going to generate new product or just milk more cash from a fading product line?

    John Dvorak 07/24/09 “Is the party over for Microsoft?”
    – “Computer books became popular; Microsoft began Microsoft Press. After an early splash and success, the company soon lost interest and the division now languishes.”

    Looking at the Microsoft Press website, it is pretty clear that the catalog is mostly about supporting Microsoft’s product lines. The 5 new and upcoming books are exclusively about Windows 7.

    While I would like to believe that this deal is about creating quality new product, I have to wonder whether it is more about Microsoft shedding a non-core activity and O’Reilly Nedia trying to bolster sales in a declining technical book market.

  • mpg

    Alex said:

    > Looking at the Microsoft Press website, it
    > is pretty clear that the catalog is mostly
    > about supporting Microsoft’s product lines.

    Um, well, yeah. You didn’t really expect them to be writing about the iPhone or Apache, did you?

    > Microsoft shedding a non-core activity

    Almost certainly. And that’s not a bad thing; it’s a good business move. I’d rather they outsourced to O’Reilly than let quality decline or simply abandon the whole line.


  • Donny

    And I asked myself why this Rick Jelliffe guy was blogging for Microsoft Open XML standardization at O’Reilly’s website. Sorry Tim, but you sold out. Ehmm, or they sold out to you. Time will tell.

  • Donny –

    Curious why you think anyone is selling out to anyone here. We have co-published books with Adobe, Apple, Yahoo!, Google, and Juniper Networks. Yes, this undertaking is somewhat more ambitious – but certainly not more ambitious than Pearson’s co-publishing programs with Adobe and Cisco, for example. This is how a lot of computer books get published, by partnerships between software companies and publishing companies. Microsoft Press has been an exception up to now in being the ONLY tech company with its own publishing arm.

  • Benjamin –

    There are already a lot of Microsoft Press books in Safari. With this deal, you’re right, we should have them all, and more quickly.

    D – If you expressed that feeling about nationality or race or politics, you’d be seen as a bigot. But unfortunately there are people who seem to treat their technology alliances with the same unthinking force. At O’Reilly, we believe that everyone can benefit from good documentation about how to use their software and systems more effectively. I hope you can have the goodwill to wish for Microsoft users and developers the same things you wish for your own “tribe.”

    I should add that if you’re upset because you’re a fan of Linux and open source, you should be cheering instead of complaining. As part of this deal, Microsoft made an agreement to release DRM-free ebooks in multiple formats. This is a bold move that will help to move the whole industry towards a lot more openness.

    Now I know that open source and DRM are not directly connected, but the willingness to go without DRM is consistent with the spirit of reciprocity that is central to open source. We make our ebooks DRM free because we trust the essential goodness of our customers. We know that, as Lao Tzu said, “Fail to honor people, they fail to honor you.”

    We’re working very hard to create a more open ebook industry, and this deal is a big step in that direction. Having O’Reilly joined by another major publisher will hopefully encourage other publishers to follow suit.

  • Sandy Ressler

    I hope you made a gazillion $$$ congrats!

  • Sandy –

    We only make money if we produce good books that you and people like you want to buy. So all that lies ahead.

    But thanks.

  • This is good news.

    Microsoft Press has released a number of very well produced and useful books but as pointed out, they generally keep to strictly their own technology. Hopefully with the new influence of O’Reilly on their upcoming books we may see a little more robustness in the content when the subject crosses OS or vendor lines.

    Also, as my more famous Tim counterpart pointed out, this signals that the winds are shifting, at least in some parts of Microsoft, to a hopefully more open source mindset.

    The perceived Patent-Hoarding and monopolistic standards-dodging of past Microsoft strategy may be sunsetting after all.

  • Andy Markley

    Hurray, more eBooks available!

  • Sounds like a good deal for all.

    Also, the Radar Twitter account seems to be suspended. DRM strikes back! :P

  • mpg: “Um, well, yeah. You didn’t really expect them to be writing about the iPhone or Apache, did you?”

    No, but I do expect them to write about their products that have more general appeal than the tight focus on selling Windows OS and other cash cow products.

    Case in point. The F# language. The language designer works at Microsoft. Yet Microsoft press has no book on F# and the designer’s own book on the language is published by Apress. O’Reilly Media also has an F# book. I would argue that F# has broader appeal as subject matter than its value in selling a Microsoft product.

    I think this cuts to heart of the issue with Microsoft publishing. What Microsoft wants is to sell more product and I would guess that the book publishing business was seen as a way to support that objective. It wouldn’t surprise me if any proposed book was evaluated on that objective alone. This is not a neutral objective. Hence their catalog is full of certification books and books that help the reader use their major products.

    For publishers, books are the product and therefore there is no agenda setting. Whilst there are branding advantages, I don’t think O’Reilly Media thinks in terms of using books to sell conferences and vice versa.

    I think the question for O’Reilly is whether the Microsoft line is really a net benefit over the long term. Obviously it will support sales growth near term, and the upcoming Windows 7 books will give sales a nice boost later this year. But at the same time, there is a danger that the O’Reilly brand will appear diluted with Microsoft books. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Microsoft titles are kept partitioned off from the other titles in some way to prevent this from happening.

    But to be a real win for O’Reilly, there must be some value added to the Microsoft line. To me, making the titles as DRM-free eBooks is nice, but hardly adding much value. What I would want to see is O’Reilly’s publishing DNA applied to future Microsoft titles. If it isn’t then what is the point? Future Microsoft product titles could be published under any one of the stable of brands handled by O’Reilly Media.

    This is why I think that Tim’s upbeat blog entry is more PR than substance. The real story is a much more prosaic business deal.

  • bowerbird

    i hope both parties are happy in this new relationship.


  • I’m not sure people realize Microsoft Press publishes a number of fantastic books on general software development topics that have nothing to do with Microsoft technologies. The best example is Steve McConnell’s Code Complete. Rapid Development and Software Estimation are also two excellent books.

    Here’s the link to their Software Design category:

  • bowerbird

    tim said:
    > The perceived Patent-Hoarding and monopolistic standards-
    > dodging of past Microsoft strategy may be sunsetting after all.

    well, come on now, let’s not get carried away into sheer stupidity.

    microsoft is outsourcing their book-publishing to o’reilly is all.
    it has nothing to do with the inner philosophical core of microsoft.


  • mpg

    Alex: fair point on “non-core products” like F#, and I hope/think the O’Reilly DNA will go a long towards addressing that concern.

    My impression from Tim’s post is that O’Reilly is taking over the work that MS Press does, not that the O’Reilly brand is buying out and shutting down the MS Press brand. Which means you will indeed see the titles partitioned off, under the MS Press name. But I could be wrong.

    I think the real two questions you and I are talking about here are (1) does the MS Press logo persist and (2) does O’Reilly HQ get editorial control over picking topics to publish.



  • Congrats to you and to the entire O’Reilly team.

  • @mpg. I am confidant that O’Reilly Media will not change the Microsoft branding of the catalog. When I mean partitioning off, I mean something else. Take a look at the O’Reilly catalog under any given subject heading. There will be a mix of books, the classic O’Reilly books, books published under the O’Reilly Media brand, and other publishers. For example, there is the Pragmatic line which has a very good reputation for quality and should sit comfortably with any developer looking at books on a language.

    Now imagine a lot of Microsoft Press books mixed in with that list. What would be the perception of this juxtaposition? I contend that it might cause a perception of the diluting of the O’Reilly brand. Therefore I would expect that most of the Microsoft Press books placed in a separate category, perhaps conveniently under “MS Certification” and “Windows OS”, for example.

    In practice, this may mean little. How much of the O’Reilly catalog is sold via chain bookstores like Barnes & Noble, or online via In such settings, there is little to indicate publisher affiliations to the reader and therefore no effect on brand perception.

    Consider the Wall Street Journal. It is now owned by Rupert Murdoch whose reputation based on his other news properties has tarnished the WSJ brand by association even as he no doubt hoped that the WSJ would improve the perception of his other properties. As a WSJ reader, I feel that the paper has dropped in quality, not for any obvious signs when reading the news pages (except the editorials), but simply from a knowledge that Murdoch is now pulling the strings. Conversely, I don’t expect a Sun reader in England cares much about the fact that his tabloid is now associated with the WSJ. Thus I feel that Murdoch’s purchase of the WSJ is a net negative, at least to me.

  • Woo, hoo! “I’m particularly excited that as part of this agreement, Microsoft has committed to make its ebooks DRM-free and device-independent.”

  • mpg said:
    > Um, well, yeah. You didn’t really expect them to be writing about the iPhone or Apache, did you?

    I actually wouldn’t be too surprised if we saw a Microsoft Press imprint on topics like Apache, IIS, and MySQL as related to running on Windows Server. These topics have been frequently discussed on Microsoft’s Port25 website (MS Open Source Labs).

  • Josh

    ebooks are a “nice to have”, but i’m wedded to paper for the forseeable future, I’m in the uk how will this affect me being able to get hold of MS Press books (also will it affect O’R books at all?). BTW I can’t recommend Rapid Development enough every project manager should have one!! – Josh

  • Gerry

    I’m wondering how this will affect potential Microsoft Press comprehensive books like for Expression Web 3 which I see as a real need. I know Microsoft MVP Chris Leeds is eager to get his ideas in print in a more advanced version of the Microsoft Press series. I was also looking forward to something in the Step by Step series for EW3 but it appears nothing is happening which to my feeling is too bad!

  • As long as you keep publishing books over open-technologies and linux, I guess it’s ok. But I have to admit this deal is kind of spooky for linux-ers.

  • cytwombly

    Tim–could you clarify what “content development” entails as mentioned in the MSFT press release: “This agreement will support and expand Microsoft Press from production through distribution, co-publishing, content development, marketing, and management.”

    Does “content development” indicate an editorial partnership or is it simply content development in the sense that some Microsoft Press titles may be Rough Cuts and thus benefit from customer suggestions and feedback before final publication?

    Also, hurray for DRM free! Does this mean that non-premium level Safari Books Online institutional subscribers will be able to print more than a page or two? It’s my understanding that the printing restrictions are largely publisher-induced by those that fear DRM-free erodes IP.

  • Cy Twombly –

    Content development means exactly that: O’Reilly is starting a new group that will develop titles to be published under the Microsoft Press imprint. Microsoft will continue to develop additional titles themselves. Both O’Reilly-produced and Microsoft-produced titles will be distributed by O’Reilly.

    Alas-DRM-free applies only to downloadable ebooks. Some of the other participating publishers in Safari are still somewhat worried about piracy. The deal may help to get a few key publishers more comfortable with loosening things, but as Safari is a multi-publisher library, we can’t act unilaterally.

  • I am very pleased to read of this. I too have a plethora of O’Reilly and Microsoft Press books spread around my shelves.

    Congratulations. And may the arrangement thrive, prosper, and bring us what we all seek: great affordable tech books.

  • Tim, you say you’re getting the entire MSP catalog into Safari (congratulations!), but does this include out-of-print titles?

  • What will the bookseller become ? Will it be possible for the bookseller to sell O’Reilly books or Microsoft book on his web site ?

    Will computer, scientific bookstore still be here in a few years ?…

  • Divya

    Wow ! So MSPress from Oreilly.

    Will you also be selling them as reprints in India like your other books?
    That would be something to look forward to.

  • Sean Gargan

    Tim, there remains at least one tech company with a publishing arm – SAS. SAS is the leader in business analytics software and SAS Publishing markets, sells and distributes content to SAS users, globally.

    Our documentation is available free online (in html and PDF) at
    Documentation can be purchased in hardcopy along with titles from SAS Press.

    Best wishes for a successful relationship with MS Press.

  • Still looking forward to one of these O’Reilly announcements being about the availability of Safari Books Online chapter/whole book downloads in EPUB format… for O’Reilly titles (which are already published in EPUB format) at least!

  • Dail Magee Jr

    Somehow I managed to miss the original announcement of the alliance between O’Reilly Media and Microsoft Press. I worked as a programmer editor for Microsoft Press for many years, moving from creating camera-ready copy to producing XML, so the news makes me just a little bit sad–but only a little.

    If Microsoft had chosen to partner with any other publisher, I would be far sadder. But O’Reilly has always been a publisher I deeply respect. On its face, the decision makes a lot of sense for both companies, and I wish both the best of results.

  • rajiv rastogi


  • Iyal Carmen

    New deal applicable for the India region too?

    It’s been a pain to to deal with the current publisher, even getting some latest info on MS Press titles (publishing schedule, which titles will be published in India, etc). They don’t even have a decent -working- search feature on their website. Hoping for a pleasant experience with O’R..

    I’d love to buy the eBooks instead of paying hefty shipping price, importing from US to India..